FEATURE: Shocktober '15 - The Loved Ones

Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list here.

Xavier Samuel stars as Brent Mitchell, a teen who has become a full stoner burnout since the death of his father in a car accident, in which Brent was driving, six months earlier. When Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy) asks to be his date to the end of school dance, he politely refuses, saying that he is going with girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine), the one bright spot in his life at the moment. Lola, however, has other ideas, working with her father to kidnap Brent and put him through a prom night experience he isn't likely to get over quickly. 

The Loved Ones is the directorial debut of Sean Byrne and operates with the kind of no-holds-barred attitude that first time directors often bring to their work, free from the pressure of expectation. He weaves together a film that successfully spins the usual teen format into a witty, tongue-in-cheek horror marvel that's both riotously entertaining, bloodcurdling and extremely funny. It also has at its heart a family tragedy, one which at times feels plucked from another film entirely. It's a heady mix and occasionally, the film's wacky tone threatens to get in the way of everything else going on, but Byrne navigates it with a sure hand, never quite letting it go too far.

All the hallmarks of a good teen movie are there; the girly outsider who just wants the perfect prom, the moody guy she falls in love with, the comedy sidekick and his very own romantic subplot. There just also happens to be torture, maiming and a basement full of emaciated kidnap victims. Lola is Andy from Pretty in Pink taken to the extreme, her scrapbook of former torture victims as treasured as the clothes Andy makes herself. She also quite the close relationship with her father, but John Brumpton is miles creepier than Harry Dean Stanton. So yeah, it's John Hughes... but with drill bits.

Samuel gets the most grounded role in The Loved Ones and provides a strong core, navigating Brent's guilt over his father's death, the difficult relationship with his mother as well as his suicidal and self-harm tendencies. Brent is someone who has repeatedly wished for death, only to fight back accordingly when the actual possibility is presented to him. The film does, however, belong to McLeavy's deliciously wicked Lola, all teen innocence in a pink cocktail dress and impractical heels. She throws herself into the sheer absurdity of it, playing Lola as that teen heroine in her own twisted prom story. "This is my first drilling," she says coyly, with all the shy excitement of a girl out with her boyfriend for the first time. It's brilliant.

For people like me who are fans of both teen horrors and teen comedies, the blend of the two in The Loved Ones is very nearly perfect, finding that line where laughing in horrified glee becomes the norm.

- Becky

You can find my other Shocktober '15 reviews here.

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